In local government council elections to be held on 16 October 2005, voters in Estonia will be the first in the world to have the choice of voting either from their homes over the internet or in a traditional booth.
In a controversial move, Estonia has changed its election laws to allow its citizens to vote via the internet. If this first try is successful, Estonia will extend e-voting to all other kinds of elections. In the regional elections, 21% of Estonians want to make use of e-voting, but it is not expected to boost the turnout of voters, usually pretty low in these kind of elections in the sparsely-populated country.
Estonia is the only country in Europe where access to the internet is a constitutional right. Sixty per cent of the country’s 1.33 million inhabitants have internet-connected computers at their homes. Those who also have an electronic identity card can use it to vote via the internet in the local government council elections.
Estonia’s President Arnold Rüütel has opposed the introduction of e-voting, arguing that the original plan favoured internet voters over traditional voters. According to the scheme, e-voters could have changed their votes until the very last minute of the election period while voters in booths could not have done the same. On Mr. Rüütel’s pressure, this withdrawal option was dismissed.
The UK has just shelved plans to introduce e-voting due to concerns that the security and confidentiality of the vote could not be guaranteed, the costs were going to be to high and the turnout would not rise. A Commission in Ireland came to similar conclusions.